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"East Indy Indians"
Strange Records Documenting the Enslavement of Oriental Men, Women and Children in 18th Century Plantation America

A reading of the property inventories below, suggests that English-American ethics fairly smiled on the ownership of any person, whether East Indian, Negro, Mulatto or white. Around this period, in a census of 1740, it was noted that 40% of all Marylander's were negro slaves, Runaway ads and inventories from the same period suggest that the total number of other unfree person in Maryland equaled or exceeded that of the Negroes, which would place the free population of Maryland at 20% or less.

Whites are listed as property alongside chattel of other races. The only difference was that a time limit was placed on white servitude. Once released, penniless, ill-clothed and with no tools, such people were, according to statute, legally subject to abduction and sale as "vagrants." The only real purpose the release of an indenture served was to free the owner from being required to feed and shelter the servant. If they stayed in the vicinity and attempted to practice whatever trade they had been used for as servants, they would have to compete with large scale free labor, so were generally left with no recourse but crime or reselling themselves.

Overall, one gets the sense after reading the documents below, that according to the law, Asians were regarded as falling somewhere between whites and negroes, and that the society of Plantation Maryland, Virginia and Carolina were hopelessly corrupted by the central social institution, which was the buying, working, selling and disposing of un-free human cattle.

If a person is referred to as merely a servant, then they are white, not Indian, East Indian, Mulatto or Negro.

Maryland Prerogative Court (Inventories) Microfilm Roll 63, CD 1, ac 1238, Liber 2, 1676

pp.177-178 (CD pp.208-9)

Inventory of Capt Edward Roe 3rd day of July 1676

1 boy servant named John Thorn at 5 years to serve - 2000 pounds tobacco

1 East India servant boy - 2500 pounds tobacco

(Talbot County)

Maryland Prerogative Court (Inventories)

Maryland Prerogative Court (Inventories) 1718-1720, SR 4328, filmed by Maryland State Archives

pp. 464-469, Inventory of Samuel Chew late of Anne Arundel County this 6 January 1718:

53 Negro men & woman at 30 pounds each 1590 pounds

29 children 580 pounds

2 East India Indians 30 pounds

1 Woman Servant 10 pounds

SR 4333, 1729-1730, Volume 14

p.251, Inventory of Elizabeth Duhadway late of Ann Arundel County, 1 June 1729

To one East India Indian named Aron Johnson having two years and a half to serve 7 pounds, 10 shillings

1732-1734, Volume 18

p.310, Mr John Stokes of Baltimore Co, 22 January 1732

1 Negro named Tom aged about 45 years 30 pounds

1 white servant about 14 mos to serve 6 pounds

1 East India Indian about 16 mos to serve 2 pounds


Windley, Runaway Slave Advertisements II:

p.36-7, Annapolis Maryland Gazette, July 17, 1760

Upper Marlborough, July 15, 1760

Ran away from Mr. Hepburn's Plantation, near Rock-Creek Bridge in Frederick County, on Saturday the 12th Instant, a Negro Man named Will, a little more than 5 feet high; he is of a yellow Complexion, being of a mix'd Breed, between an East-Indian and a Negro, has a large full Eyes, long Wool on his Head, and Lips.

J. Hepburn.

p.111, May 25, 1775 in Prince George's County, near Upper Marlborough, on Sunday the 26 the of March, a negro man, named Sam, but generally called and known by the name of Sam Locker; between thirty and forty years of age, has rather long hair, being of the East-Indian breed; he formerly belonged to Mr. Isaac Simmons near Pig Point, in Anne Arundel County; the said Simmons now lives near Calvert County court house, and I suppose the fellow may endeavor to get down to his old master's house.



Orders 1697-1703,

p.251, March 1699/1700, Henry Trent brings his servant Nick an East Indian adjudged 11 years old.


William Matthews, an East Indian, [1] produced a warrant in Caroline County court on 13 February 1752 for taking up a runaway servant woman [Orders 1746-54, 296].


Richard1 Weaver, born say 1675, was called an East Indian by the Lancaster County court on 11 April 1711 when it granted him judgment against the estate of Andrew Jackson for 400 pounds of tobacco due by bill [Orders 1702-13, 262].

William1 Weaver, born say 1686, and Jack Weaver, "East Indy Indians," sued Thomas Pinkard for their freedom in Lancaster County court on 13 August 1707. The court allowed them five days time to produce evidence relating to their freedom but ordered them not to depart the county to some remote county without giving security to return to their master within the time allowed. Neither party appeared for the trial on 10 March 1707/8 [Orders 1702-13, 183, 176, 185].


Orders 1704-8,

p.111, 6 February 1705/6, Petition of Sembo, an East India Indian Servant to Jno. Lloyd, Esq., for his freedom.

p.156-9, Petition of Moota, an East India Indian, servant to Capt. Thomas Beale, surviving executor of Mr. William Colston, deced., for his freedom ... ordered and judged that said Moota be free ... ordered and adjudged that said Sembo be free.

Orders 1711-16,

p.479, 2 May 1716, Anthony an Indian v. Long, The Order made last March Court for the Sheriff to summon Henry Long to answer what should be offered against him by Anthony, an East India Indian, is hereby discontinued.


Orders 1735-38

p.440, Zachary Lewis, Churchwarden of St. George Parish, presents Ann Jones, a servant belonging to John West, who declared that Pompey an East Indian (slave) belonging to William Woodford, Gent., was the father of sd child which was adjudged of by the Court that she was not under the law having a Mullato child, that only relates to Negroes and Mullatoes and being Silent as to Indians, carry sd. Ann Jones to the whipping post. [2]


Martha Gamby, born say 1675, was an (East) Indian woman living in England on 5 January 1701/2 when Henry Conyers made an agreement with her that she would serve him in Virginia on condition that he would pay her passage back to England if she wished to return within the following four years. The agreement was recorded in Stafford County court about 1704 [WB, Liber Z:194].


Orders 1705-21,

p.59a, 25 June 1707, Ordered Mr. Daniel Neale bee summoned to bee appear at the next Court held for the County aforesaid to answer the suit of William an East India Indian servant to the sd Neale relateing to his freedom.

p.83, 30 March 1708, Will an East India Indian late a supposed slave to Mr. Danll Neale by his Petition to this Court setting forth that some tyme in yeare 1689 being fraudulently trappand out of his Native Country in the East Indies and thence transported to England and soon after brought into this Country and sold as a slave to Mr. Christopher Neale deceased father of his sd present Master And that hee had ever since faithfully served the sd Christopher and Daniel Notwithstanding which the sd Daniel though often demanded denied him his freedome And the sd Daniel being summoned to answer the sd complaint appeared and both parties Submitted the whole matter of the complaint to the Court All which being maturely & fully heard It is considered by the Court that the sd Will ought not to have been sold as a slave and that he is a freeman And doe therefore discharge him from all service due to the sd Christopher or Danll Neale.


Orders, Wills, Etc. no 14, 1709-1716

p.288, 16 November 1713, Joseph Walker, Gent., in open Court acknowledged his release & acquittance to Moll an East India Indian.

p.291, whereas an East India Indian woman named Moll (imported into this Colony by Joseph Walker, Gent., ye year 1700 & by him sold to Jno. Tullett, being desirous of freedom ... acquit Moll from being a Slave. J. Walker

Orders, Wills, Etc. 15, 1716-20

p.82, 18 February 1716/7, Petition of Eliza Ives for service from her East Indian woman servt. for the trouble of her house in the time of her lying in is rejected.

Bruton Parish Church, York and James City County:

p. 115, 12 August 1738, burial of ____ny a East Indian belonging to Honble William Gooch, Esq.


15 April to 27 April 1737

Ran away from Col. John Lewis's in Gloucester ... Mulatto Fellow named George ... Ran away in Company with the above-mentioned was an East Indian, belonging to Mr. Heylin, Merchant, in Gloucester. John Lewis and John Heylyn.

4 August 1768. (Rind) Richmond County. Run away the 20th of May last, and East-India Indian, named Thomas Greenwich. William Colston.

7 March 1771. Run away from the sloop Betsy, Edward Massey commander, belonging to Mr. Thomas Hodge, out of Corotoman river, in Lancaster county, three servant men, viz., one named Samuel Tailer, and Englishman ... One Virginia born Negro, named Alexander Richardson about 21 years old ... The other an East Indian, upwards of 5 feet and a half high, about 22 years old, of a very dark complexion.

John Newton, sevt, c. 20, an Asiatic Indian by birth [or mulatto according to another edition of the gazette] has been in Va. about 2 mos. but claims to have lived in England 10 years in the service of Sir Charles Whitworth; ran away from William Brown of Prince William County Virginia Gazette 13 July 1776 Virginia Gazette Purdie edition 19 July 1776, p.249 Headley


Craven County

Minutes 1772-1778, 12 September 1777, p.58c-d Peter Charles vs John Egge Tomlinson This Case being Ruled for Trial this Day the Court provided to hear the Parties upon the Examination of Witnesses The court was Unanimous of the opinion that the said Peter Charles is an East India Indian and justly Intitled to his Freedom. Therefore Ordered that he be Immediately Discharged and Set Free and the Defendant John Edge Tomlinson pay all costs.

Mary Dove, born say 1710, was a "Negro woman" slave listed in the Anne Arundel County, Maryland, inventory of the estate of Eleazer Birkhead on 28 April 1744 [Prerogative Court (inventories) 1744-5, 43]. Birkhead's widow married Leonard Thomas, and Mary Dove sued him in Anne Arundel County court for her freedom in June 1746 [Judgment Record 1746-8, 118]. The outcome of the suit is not recorded, apparently because Thomas took her with him when he moved to Craven County, North Carolina. In September 1749 the Dove family was living in Craven County when William Smith complained to the court on their behalf that Leonard Thomas was detaining them as slaves:

Moll, Nell, Sue, Sall, & Will, Negroes Detained as Slaves by Leonard Thomas That they are free born Persons in the Province of Maryland and brought to this Province by the said Leonard Thomas

William Smith travelled to Maryland to prove their claim, and they were free by November 1756 when James Dove, a "Negro Servant," complained to the Craven County court that Smith was mistreating him, Nelly, Sue, Sarah, Moll, and William Dove [Haun, Craven County Court Minutes, IV:11-12, 366].

A grandson of Mary Dove named William Dowry was still held in slavery in Anne Arundel County in 1791 when he sued for his freedom in the General Court of Maryland. In October 1791 a fifty-seven or fifty-eight-year-old woman named Ann Ridgely (born about 1734), who was the daughter-in-law of Leonard Thomas, testified in Anne Arundel County that Mary Dove was a tall, spare woman of brown complexion and was the granddaughter of a woman imported into the country by the deponent's great grandfather. The deponent always understood that the grandmother of Mary Dove was a "Yellow Woman," had long black hair, was reputed to be an East Indian or a Madagascarian, and was called "Malaga Moll." [2]

Ridgely testified that Mary Dove had a daughter named Fanny who was the mother of William Dowry who petitioned for his freedom in the General Court of Maryland in 1791. She also testified that Mary Dove sued Leonard Thomas for freedom in Maryland, but before the suit was decided he moved with his family about twenty miles from Newbern, North Carolina, and took with him Mary, her three children, and her grandchildren Will and Sal. A certain Alexander Sands, commonly called Indian Sawony, was a witness for Mary Dove in her suit in Craven County, North Carolina, in 1749 and testified that her grandmother was an East Indian woman [Craven County Miscellaneous Records, C.R. 28.928.10


1. Note that this East Indian, who may have been a mixed race Malay, an Indian, or even Chinese, had the authority, through his master, to petition for the recovery of a white person who had escaped. When race is omitted and the term servant is used, that person is white.

2. I once informed a professional historian of the 18th century Virginia statutes that permitted the Church Warden's to take the children of free white women who had been impregnated out of wedlock and sell them to a master for a term of 31 years. He laughed and said that surely such a law was never enforced. In Ann's case we have an example of a white servant woman being punished with a whipping according to a related statute, which indicates that if her bastard had been fathered by a Negro or Mulatto the child would have been confiscated.

3. Madagascar was settled by Malaysians as early as 500 A.D. These people are believed responsible for introducing Iron working and the yam to Sub-Saharan Africans, a development that resulted in a massive displacement and killing of the San, Hottentot and related cappoid tribes.

America in Chains

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